STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

US says Russia intentionally violating Syria military agreement

The Pentagon has accused Russia of intentionally violating an agreement intended to prevent accidents in the skies ov...

Posted: Dec 22, 2017 8:26 AM
Updated: Dec 22, 2017 8:26 AM

The Pentagon has accused Russia of intentionally violating an agreement intended to prevent accidents in the skies over Syria, following a recent unsafe encounter between US F-22s and Russian Su-25 jets.

"Russia is failing to genuinely de-conflict airspace in Syria. Some of these incidents are not mistakes," Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana W. White told CNN.

The Pentagon told CNN: "Russia is failing to genuinely de-conflict airspace in Syria. Some of these incidents are not mistakes"

Last week Russia denied its planes crossed the de-confliction line

"We are working to address this issue at the highest levels," she added.

The Pentagon's statement comes just days after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said it was unclear why the Russians were violating the agreement, which separates Russian and US-led coalition forces operating in Syria.

"I don't expect perfection, but I don't expect dangerous maneuvers, either," Mattis told reporters Friday when asked about the recent violations of the de-confliction line, suggesting that some of the violations may have been due to pilot error.

"We'll sort this out but right now, I cannot tell you if it's sloppy airmanship, or a rambunctious pilot, or people who are trying to do something that was very unwise," Mattis said.

The US military said last week that two US F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two Russian Su-25 attack jets after the Russian aircraft crossed the Euphrates River in Syria, flying east of the "de-confliction line" that is supposed to separate Russian and US-led coalition aircraft operating over Syria.

"One Su-25 flew close enough to an F-22A that it had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision," US Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told CNN last week, saying the US planes conducted multiple maneuvers, released chaff and flares, and made "multiple calls on the emergency channel to convey to the Russian pilots that they needed to depart the area."

The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement last week denying its planes crossed the de-confliction line, saying the incident took place west of the Euphrates River.

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to continue to uphold these de-confliction measures in their joint statement issued on the sidelines of the APEC conference in Da Nang, Vietnam.

The statement said Trump and Putin "agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both US and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS."

The agreement says that Russian and Syrian regime forces are to operate west of the Euphrates River while the US and its coalition allies are to operate to the east. If either side wishes to operate on the other side of the river, they are supposed to communicate via a hotline that allows Russian and coalition military officers to talk to each other.

The de-confliction arrangements gained greater importance in June after a US Navy F/A-18 shot down a Syrian regime Su-22 jet after the regime warplane dropped bombs near US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces near Tabqah, Syria.

"Since agreeing to this de-confliction arrangement, the Russians have flown into our airspace on the east side of the river 6-8 times per day, or approximately 10% of the Russian and Syrian flights," Pickart said.

But a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting ISIS told reporters Tuesday that Russian jets were flying fewer missions alongside the Euphrates River, reducing the number of potential interactions between Russian and US/coalition aircraft.

"In the last two to three days, there has been a decrease in the presence along the Middle Euphrates River Valley," Col. Ryan Dillon said while adding "there has been a decrease in the amount of sorties that they have flown."

On Thursday, Air Forces Central Command spokesperson Capt. AnnMarie Annicelli told CNN: "We have not had an intercept since Dec. 13, 2017. There has been a marked decrease in incidents between Coalition and Russian Federation aircraft. This is due in large part to the dialogue from both sides that has allowed us to voice concerns and seek solutions that de-escalate tensions."

However, a US military official told CNN that as recently as Saturday, a Russian aircraft carried out airstrikes east of the Euphrates River Valley without informing the coalition via the de-confliction line.

The breakdown of the effectiveness of the de-confliction line raises serious questions about the fight against ISIS as coalition officials have said that ISIS defenders continue to fight in remaining villages along the Euphrates River Valley while other ISIS fighters have moved west into areas ostensibly controlled by the Syrian regime.

ISIS fighters "know if they were to come east of the river that they have to contend with our partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces. So they would opt for the easier solution, which is, moving west," Dillon said.

Asked if US-led coalition forces could strike ISIS fighters further west of the Euphrates without running afoul of Russian airplanes, Dillon demurred.

"As far as going further into the western part, or the interior parts of the -- of Syria, I'm not prepared and ready to address that," Dillon said.

Amid these multiple alleged Russian crossings of the de-confliction boundary, the US military has expressed concern it might have to shoot down a Russian aircraft over Syria if the Russian plane is seen as a threat to US or coalition forces fighting ISIS.

"The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces," Pickart told CNN.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 144544

Reported Deaths: 3729
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto963299
Hinds9584195
Harrison6848109
Jackson6124118
Rankin528598
Lee484295
Madison4633105
Forrest368186
Jones345287
Lauderdale3350143
Lafayette315049
Washington3097107
Lamar281849
Oktibbeha239261
Bolivar239083
Lowndes228863
Neshoba2164115
Panola211749
Marshall208350
Leflore200890
Pontotoc194728
Monroe190277
Sunflower189755
Lincoln186165
Warren172257
Tate164251
Union160925
Pike160458
Copiah158940
Yazoo151239
Scott150229
Itawamba147634
Coahoma147443
Pearl River144467
Simpson144253
Alcorn143925
Prentiss140429
Grenada136945
Adams136548
Leake131843
Holmes124961
George122224
Tippah121530
Covington117636
Winston116624
Wayne115823
Hancock114139
Marion111046
Attala107833
Tishomingo106142
Newton102729
Chickasaw102432
Tallahatchie95527
Clarke88553
Clay87027
Jasper81122
Walthall75028
Stone72414
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71613
Carroll70614
Lawrence70214
Yalobusha69427
Noxubee69217
Smith68816
Perry65225
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis54217
Humphreys52618
Amite51214
Benton48417
Quitman4796
Webster42014
Kemper40917
Wilkinson38622
Jefferson33811
Franklin3235
Choctaw3077
Sharkey30617
Issaquena1114
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 236865

Reported Deaths: 3472
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31043491
Mobile19446360
Tuscaloosa12684150
Madison12528146
Montgomery12122235
Shelby992276
Baldwin837684
Lee759765
Morgan626247
Calhoun6049113
Etowah600564
Marshall596153
Houston510838
DeKalb469635
Cullman421136
Limestone408844
St. Clair403955
Elmore398961
Lauderdale387253
Walker356199
Talladega339044
Jackson302524
Colbert297641
Blount282236
Autauga266139
Franklin246233
Coffee236615
Dale228454
Dallas222331
Russell21923
Chilton218537
Covington215933
Escambia196931
Tallapoosa171790
Chambers171448
Pike156014
Clarke155319
Marion135535
Winston126623
Lawrence123936
Geneva11848
Pickens117618
Marengo117424
Barbour116710
Bibb115717
Butler114341
Randolph100321
Cherokee99624
Hale93231
Washington89918
Clay89623
Fayette86216
Henry8436
Lowndes78929
Monroe77911
Cleburne75614
Macon71720
Crenshaw70330
Bullock69019
Conecuh68214
Perry6726
Lamar6337
Wilcox62818
Sumter56222
Choctaw41813
Greene41317
Coosa3144
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 61°
Columbus
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 59°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 61°
Starkville
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 57°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather